Recreation commission hires Friend as director
Baldwin City residents can welcome new recreation director Steve Friend.
On Wednesday, he will take over as the new Baldwin City Recreation Department director. The announcement of Friend's hiring came from the BCRC recently. He is looking forward to his new employment opportunity.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to be here, but I am sad about leaving a place I've been for 30 years," Friend said.
Members of the BCRC are also thrilled to have Friend on board for the new year. George McCrary, interim director and BCRC member, was happy that they were able to hire Friend for the opening.
"We are very excited," McCrary said. "We got the one candidate we wanted. He was our top candidate. We have high expectations for a seasoned veteran."
The position has been open since Oct. 17 when McCrary took over for longtime BCRC director Monte Ezell.
Friend attended his first BCRC meeting Dec. 19. He sat in on the meeting and introduced himself to the few members he hadn't met prior to that night.
He enjoyed his chance to be a part of the commission for the first time.
"I wanted to visit with them today," Friend said. "I haven't met all of them yet, but I talked to a few of them. I wanted to put them at ease about me and who I am."
When asked why he was interested in the BCRC director opening, Friend described two reasons why he wanted to take this opportunity.
"There were two basic reasons," Friend said. "One is that I could retire under KPERS and draw my retirement, which made financial sense for me. The biggest reason was this felt like a good fit for me. I didn't want to retire and take any job. The committee is really motivated and wanting to do things for the community. I found that exciting. This will recharge my batteries."
He continued saying the challenge of the job brought him here.
"I thought it would be a challenging job and that's what I was looking for," Friend said. "I could have stayed at Burlington and been happy for 10 more years. I think I did all I could do at Burlington. It was just maintaining what we had and, frankly, that wasn't challenging enough."
Friend left his job as the recreation commission director in Burlington after holding the job for more than 29 years. Burlington is slightly smaller than Baldwin, but a similar sized town. He was the first full-time director in Burlington, although his job began as a half-time position.
During his time in Burlington, he helped the recreation department build a new swimming pool facility, ball fields and a new recreation facility.
The opportunity to build new facilities or improve the current ones in Baldwin City interested Friend in this job.
"That seems to be some of the needs here," Friend said. "They need some facilities and you have the opportunity, too. There are park areas that are unique and a couple lake areas, too. You have some open space by the school that a lot of people would just kill to have. It's something to work with. We'll see if we can identify priorities and see what needs to be funded, then proceed."
Friend won't officially be moved into the city yet, but he said he likes the town and is looking for a place to live.
"I like the location here," Friend said. "It is a close proximity to a lot of things. It will be an opportunity for my wife to find employment if she wants to do that."
"We're just trying to find a place to stay," Friend said. "We're trying to sell our house and find a place to live. I may have to commute at first, but we'll get up here sooner or later."